A Fashion History Lesson: Current Events and Effects on Trends
Culture is forever evolving as is fashion. The industry is heavily affected by society's response to current events and the overall mood of the people.
1920s: A Time of High Energy
In this decade, a carefree, party-aesthetic consumer American society grew. The ’20s flapper style rose from the need for vigorous movement after Black youth introduced an energetic new dance called the Charleston. To reflect this, women’s dresses were shorter, allowing more movement. Men at this time wore less formal attire with more attention toward athleisure and denim. The 1920s were a time of high energy and the clothes reflected that.
1930s: A Reflection of the Great Depression
The decade of The Great Depression led to resourceful fashion. Women would draw fake seams on their legs to mimic the look of nylons and upcycle anything they could. Men wore long suit jackets with padded shoulders and dressed similarly to how they did in the 1920s. After all, the motto of the decade was ‘repair, reuse, make do, and don’t waste anything.’ This rang true for the fashion industry as well.
1940s: A Time with No Risk
It was a time of war. Not just any war though, it was the time of World War II. America previously depended on Paris for its influence on the fashion industry, but now American designers were on their own with minimal resources as most resources were dedicated to the war efforts. Designers in America had no choice but to play it safe and mimic old designs. This wasn’t a time to make changes as this could risk wasting valuable materials.
1950s: Fabric, Fabric, Fabric
This time period marked the beginning of one of the biggest economic booms in history along with the rise of consumerism! Women's dresses at this time exploded with excess fabric. Since the time of war had come to an end, so did rationing. Designers would include intricate gatherings, a multitude of pleats, and poofy petticoats in bold patterns and colors. Additionally, men wore suits as their everyday attire or some type of formal wear for status. Their suits were made with textured textiles and had a boxy fit.
1960s: Black is Beautiful
In this decade, the Black is Beautiful movement was in full speed! African Americans grew natural afros and wore colorful dashikis made from African kente cloth to embrace their culture. Members of the Black Panther Party adopted a militant style, dressing all in black. Also during this time, first lady Jaqueline Kennedy inspired women across the nation with her style. Her Chanel suits and oversized buttons were extremely recognizable and carried through the fashion trends of this time.
1970s: Self Expression
During the 1970s in New York, hip hop was created to counter disco culture. Thus, the birth of streetwear began. Baggy clothes, upcycling, and repurposing old trends were the epitome of the ’70s. There was an important shift from the desire to fit in, to the desire to stand out during this time period, leaving people to get creative with their style. Change and expression was the name of the game. Self-expression was key to being “trendy” in the ’70s, (as it should be)!
1980s: The Surge of Luxury
During this time period, women began to join the workforce and were in need of appropriate workplace apparel. Women’s high-end work apparel lines began to launch from designers like Giorgio Armani and Chanel. Luxury accessories and goods surged as well. However, men still grasped the casual essence of the ’70s and often wore denim on denim or oversized jackets.
1990s: Grunge and Rock & Roll
To reflect the country’s laid back, rock culture, grunge clothing trends emerged. It was the time for solid colors, baggier fitting clothing, and scrunchies! Society at this time embraced the minimalist mindset and their style mirrored those ideologies and dressed in plain clothing and natural colors. Designers like Marc Jacobs and Alexander McQueen took inspiration from street styles and branded the comfy aesthetic as the new norm for American fashion.
Today: A Melting Pot of Trends
Today, we see plenty of combinations from previous decades’ trends! However, one of the most prominent styles circulating America today is streetwear. The streetwear surge was derived from African Diaspora. While streetwear has risen in popularity in the past, streetwear today is more gender-neutral. Today we thank designers such as Kanye West and Virgil Abloh for bringing streetwear back but also for their creativity in bringing streetwear to the forefront of luxury fashion for the first time.